LABELS: Opus 111
PERFORMER: Lina Mkrtchyan (contralto)Evgeny Talisman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: OPS 30-227
Born in the Ukraine, trained in Russia and of Armenian parentage, Lina Mkrtchyan is being marketed as a new Callas. It’s not a helpful comparison for, apart from a striking physical resemblance (and way with make-up) and the fact that each is/was a remarkable singer, there is nothing obvious to link them. Mkrtchyan is a contralto steeped in the Russian tradition, whose old-fashioned style makes the current stars of the Kirov seem Westernised. Her voice is quintessentially Slavic: velvety, guttural and very deep, but rising smoothly to a delicate, finely modulated top.
She cannot cope yet with other languages, but otherwise she has a glorious instrument, with none of the ponderousness or that oddly curdled quality that can mar voices with this tessitura.
Instead, in the lighter songs that are the real highlights of this outstanding recital – the delightful ‘Travelling Song’, with its hurtling, tongue-twisting refrain to evoke a train; the sprightly, Italianate ‘Venetian Night’ – there’s perceptible laughter, an ease, an airiness that are irresistible. There’s a substantial element of authentic Russian yearning, torment and soulfulness, too, all of it gorgeous, but it’s rapture and joy that she and the excellent pianist Evgeny Talisman express to greatest effect. Claire Wrathall